Selected Poetry

by P. L. Thomas

survival is reductive

I was afraid/I’d eat your brains

“Conversation 16,” The National

We’re drunk and sparking, our legs are open
Our hands are covered in cake
But I swear we didn’t have any

“The Geese of Beverly Road,” The National

of all places (and through Twitter)
The New York Times tells me
the Greenland shark may be
the longest living vertebrae

i learn that this sea creature
“… has a life expectancy of at least 272 years”
and then i look at a photo
recognizing survival is reductive

bullet-bodied and steel-eyed
everything mythologized about sharks
terrifies me sitting here 200 miles from an ocean
frivolously drinking a second cup of coffee with honey and cream

my literary mind is rattled
Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Kurt Vonnegut’s Galapagos
Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Blade Runner
Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and The Walking Dead

and of course the man hiking for recreation
who had to cut off his own arm to survive
like a Greenland shark feeding for 27 decades
even if it must swallow this man and his Armani suit whole

you i must admit are nothing like this shark
your eyes warm and your body curved perfectly for mine
so that i am prone to say “to hell with survival”
because i’d rather live wrapped in your arms and legs instead


fantasy & memory (you drew me into you)

Big wet bottle in my fist
Big wet rose in my teeth
“All the Wine,” The National

we buy a bottle of wine
Cabernet i think
because i know nothing of wine
except you said it makes you affectionate

we find a Zooey Daschanel film on Netflix
500 Days of Summer
to watch while drinking wine
and barely paying any attention

i recall nothing about the wine
except its taste on your lips and tongue
and we may or may not have finished the film
although i will never forget the way you drew me into you

—P.L. Thomas

object permanence

One has no choice but to look at one’s reflection in the mirror.

Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

out of town we walk into a cramped Mexican restaurant
i resist thinking “claustrophobic” and running out

beside me you whisper “see what she is reading”
and i look at the slim volume on a small table

where a dark-haired woman in her 40s is sitting alone:
Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality, Part 1

compulsively my brain begins imagining who she is
while we are guided to jumbled tables in a corner

who reads Foucault midday in claustrophobic restaurants?
i wonder feeling your bare knee pressing against mine

one day we all come to realize
when someone leaves the room

that person still exists even when out of sight
like a toy hidden behind someone’s back

and then as well we come to recognize
we are surveilled always from every angle

but no one ever really sees us completely
(we prisoners of knowing only our reflections)

i do not run from the restaurant
but instead put my hand on your knee

under a table barely larger than a book
anchoring myself there to you

–P.L. Thomas

nonsense (she will grow tired of all this)

If as
close as we’re ever likely to get, you and I, is this—this close—
The Way One Animal Trusts Another, Carl Phillips

eventually [he told her]
she will grow tired of all this
nonsense that was who they had to be

it will be a holiday
spent alone just like her nights
but she will tire only of the nonsense

[and he had imagined her
before he ever believed in her
or of the possibility of her

what if i had a hideous birthmark
she taunted him smiling
as they both considered the curve of her]

the nonsense of cars and dark parking lots
the nonsense of silences and secrets
the nonsense of not here, please

nothing he could have discovered of her
would have deterred him from her or this

and nothing would ever erase from her heart him
stopping her from behind to kiss her bare shoulder

—P.L. Thomas

hearts (on carpe diem and mortality)

daily we fail our hearts
until the day our hearts fail us

—P.L. Thomas

drawing blood (the literalist)

he wanted to be the sort of artist
who could draw blood

so he kept his pencils sharp
& bought an X-Acto knife

—P.L. Thomas

chrysalis (i hold my words in awe)

i dream about a young man in love
driven to writing poetry
by his desire for a young woman

but the dream is about a film
about this young man in love
and his becoming a poet

i think about Joyce’s “Araby”
and that a film about writing poetry
cannot be anything except deadly boring

i dream/imagine the young man writing
and i try to hold onto the words
but the lines drafted slip away

even as i cannot separate the dream
from the layers of me as poet
and the impotency of words

like Faulkner’s Addie and Anse
in his dystopian and racist South
he carried like a rusting black anvil

the next morning i wake as usual
to our labs scratching the back door

we are the experiment of dogs training
owners to do their Pavlovian bidding

through the wake of this dream of a poet
and a restless night interrupted by barking

i discover Hera Lindsay Bird who is braver than i
who writes about being fucked from behind

while dropping names of canonical poets
who have become inevitably worm food

she also writes about Monica from “Friends”
with the same dexterity and stark profanity

until i realize i am as boring as a film
about a young poet madly in love

until i realize that my impotent words
could never satisfy her or maybe anyone

who isn’t already very well read
to the point of being the walking dead

because i cannot be as brave as she
i follow her on Twitter and check my blog stats

my granddaughter keeps brushing her hair
away from her eyes

i call her Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons
although she is beautiful

it is a brutally hot July day in South Carolina
as i watch her play

a tiny butterfly lands on her forehead just as she brushes
smudging it to dust on her eyebrow

because i cannot be as brave or beautiful as she
i hold my words in awe

—P.L. Thomas

the anthropology of us

Mountains, according to the angle of view, the season, the time of day, the beholder’s frame of mind, or any one thing, can effectively change their appearance. Thus, it is essential to recognize that we can never know more than one side, one small aspect of a mountain.
― Haruki Murakami, A Wild Sheep Chase

i find you in a room standing alone
wearing jeans and a simple top
you are barefoot and the room silent

you have pulled your hair to one side
opposite the ear where you replace an earring
your head tilted and your eyes closed

you do not hear see or smell me there
because i cannot be in that room
where the you before me and us stand

i have never been there because this is past
before either of us were aware of the other
but i must imagine this you to know everything

this irrevocable of you and even of me
both now the us of us rendered unerasable
although the you of before me lie nested there

we are the present of the inevitable past
that could have led only to this of us
even though neither of us could have imagined

i find you in a room standing alone
wearing jeans and a simple top
you are barefoot and the room silent

i hope this you of before me are happy
as i long for the you of me and us to be
i cannot stop myself reaching for the curve of you

—P.L. Thomas

first blueberries of the season

Let’s go wait out in the fields with the ones we love

“Heavenfaced,” The National

you send me a picture

your right hand and the blueberry bush
fingers touching the green leaves
your palm holding 8 blueberries

the white of your wrist moves me
like the flesh of a summer apple
to kiss there before taking a bite

—P.L. Thomas

lost years (seconds awake)

She was hearing everything that went on in his heart, like a person who can trace a map with his fingertip and conjure up vivid, living scenery.
―Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

you wake us with your coughing
in the middle of the night

you not yet two and now sleeping
in our daughter’s old bedroom

we bring you downstairs to our bed
as grandparents do (as parents did)

briefly i sleep between your coughing fits
and there you are in a dream also

when i see you in the dream i say
“what’s happened? what’s happened?”

then i hear in reply “she is five now”
so i begin to cry for those lost three years

your coughing wakes me from this dream
lying there beside you so wonderful and small

i am washed over by the lost years in a dream
and the seconds awake ticking you there as well

i reach for your tiny hand and stroke your palm
a fingertip caressing the cough away soothing us both

—P.L. Thomas


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